We’ve attributed human characteristics to cars probably since before Herbie went to Monte Carlo in the 1970s.
I used to have a girlfriend, who gave her cars names. Not even silly names, but actual names. I remember she had a Mini Metro called Matilda, for instance. And the kids call my car – a Honda Jazz – Jeff, after Jazzy Jeff the DJ. My neighbour’s Jazz (apparently Jeff’s girlfriend) is called Jasmine.
Anyway, my wife came back to her car the other week to find it had its hazard lights on. Puzzled, she went to switch them off, but to no avail. One visit from the RAC man seemed to put it right, but the next morning she woke to find them blinking away again.
The ten mile drive to work that she then endured with people helpfully flashing their lights at her, honking their horns and generally veering off the road while they gesticulated wildly resolved her to ring our friendly neighbourhood garage. A pick-up truck was duly despatched to tow it home.
After a couple of days it appeared that the mechanics had no idea what was wrong, so when I popped in to see if it was ready, I was greeted by the sight of a dashboard, still in pieces, with bits of wiring tumbling out here and there.
I didn’t fully understand the detailed explanation, but I gathered that they were experimenting by re-routing and connecting different circuits to see if the central locking was the main culprit.
It was all a mystery. Even the experts they’d consulted at Toyota were flummoxed.
After a week of tinkering, the problem was finally discovered and I was able to pick the car up. It turned out that a leak of water had come in via an ill-fitting windscreen and made its way into the main computer causing a strange coppery blue ‘mould’ to spread in a couple of the circuit boards. This had been cleaned off and the leak was sealed.
“You see, when you get something going wrong in the main computer …” explained Arthur the chief mechanic, as he showed me the photos of the mouldy connections and how they’d spread, “you don’t know how it’s going to manifest itself …”
This sounds familiar, I thought.
“… You can get a fault anywhere on the car where there’s electrics and you think that’s where the problem is, but it’s actually the main computer that’s at fault. Does that make sense?”
It made perfect sense.
“It sounds just like me,” I said noticing how my right leg was feeling fuzzy all of a sudden.
I paid the bill, which consisted mainly of a week’s labour, and drove the blighter home.
I patted the dashboard comfortingly before I got out. “Ahhh! You’ve had a relapse!” I said.
Pressing the switch for the central locking, what should be a helpful blink from the indicators didn’t materialise. Checking the doors, they were locked, but some connection had been lost forever.
Hmmm … must be secondary progressive, I thought, turning towards my house.